The Chinese Pianists Who Are Driving Music Forwards

Across the past century piano mania continues to sweep across China and the country offers some of the most innovative talented pianists in the world today. Today, in connection with the Chinese new year, we wanted to celebrate just a few of the names who are continuing to innovate and excel the piano into new territories.

Music as a whole is accelerating enormously within China, from 2013 to 2017, it’s believed that the number of orchestras in China lept from 32 to 82. Likewise, within education, an estimated 40 million children in China take piano lessons, compared to less than 10 million across the rest of the world. In fact it’s believed that around 60-80 percent of children and young people playing the piano are from China.

For this reason, China is a world leader of classical music and every now and again comes a prodigy who moves the musical conversation forwards and brings something incredibly unique to the masses, inspiring an all new generation of pianists. Here are just a handful of our favourite pianists from China who are doing exactly this. These are definitely names to add to your own piano playlists!

Lang Lang

No pianist list would be complete without Lang Lang. Arguably the most celebrated pianist in the world today, Lang Lang is at the forefront of modern piano innovation and has recorded some of the world’s most played and famous compositions from across the ages. He has an immense level of charisma when behind the piano and really brings his music to life.

Lang Lang’s style of enthusiastic performance has always been controversial within the classical scene, when he first entered the main stages, pianist Earl Wild called him "the J. Lo of the piano." due to his exceptional charisma and emotion that he puts into his performance when behind the piano. Since then, Lang Lang has performed for numerous international dignitaries, President Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, President Hu Jintao of China and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to name just a few.

From Beethoven to Bach to Mozart, Lang Lang’s style and impeccable playing continues to keep incredible compositions alive in the pristine and emotive manner they were intended.

Li Yundi

Born in Chongqing, Li is most well known for being the youngest pianist to win the International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition at just 18 years old.

Since then, Yundi has been continuing to release both his own music as well as completing immaculate works by the likes of Mozart and most famously, his recording contract with EMI Classics with plans to record the complete works for solo piano by Frédéric Chopin that receives millions of listens every month.

Yuja Wang

Born in Beijing, Yuja Wang is another incredible child prodigy of the piano. She began studying piano at the age of just six and went on to study at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. By the age of 21, she was already an internationally recognized concert pianist, giving recitals around the world.

The thing we perhaps love most about Yuja is the manner in which she talks about music, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times she said: "For me, playing music is about transporting to another way of life, another way of being. An actress does that." That’s definitely something we can get behind!

As of 2020, Wang has performed with countless orchestras and bands across the world, including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Washington, as well as Berlin Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, China Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Orquesta Nacional de España, to name just a handful!

Fou Ts'ong

Fou Ts’ong was a Chinese-born British pianist and is largely regarded as the first pianist of China origin to achieve international recognition.

He came to prominence after winning third prize and the Polish Radio Prize for the best performance of mazurkas in the 1955 International Chopin Piano Competition, and remained particularly known as an interpreter of Chopin's music throughout his life.

Lang Lang has also described Fou as being a real role model for his own playing journey, praising his "unique" understanding of music. Fou unfortunately died of COVID-19 in London on 28 December 2020 at age 86.

Zhu Xiao-Mei

Born in Shanghai, 1949. Zhu Xao-Mei was such a talent that by the time she was just 8 years old, she was already being played on Beijing radio and television.

Zhu’s career is an incredible one that really focuses on conquering the classical music circle one step at a time. During her takeoff years playing piano in Paris, every single one of her recitals was sold out due to word of mouth and her immense skills.

Zhu is known for covering the lives of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, but it is her work on Bach’s compositions that she is widely regarded as one of the leading names in the world.

Ji Liu

Another fresh name in the world of the piano, Ji Liu is an exceptional pianist who by the age of just 13, had won the 6th Pinault piano competition in New York City, which subsequently led to his debut recital at Carnegie Hall.

In 2007, Liu moved to London with a full scholarship to continue his Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance. He became the youngest ever first prize winner at Brant International Pianoforte Competition in Birmingham. He was selected as a Young Classical Artists Trust (YCAT) artist in 2013 and was awarded Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM) in 2019. Ji continues to create an immense level of excitement and interest around the piano that few other names can create. Definitely one to watch!

So there you have it, some incredibly talented names that are more than worth the listen! If you would like to learn more about starting your own piano journey, contact us today!

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